The First Step in My Writing Career: My “Ah-Ha!” Moment

Like most writers, I never needed any encouragement to write. As long as I can remember, I wrote—from elementary school on up. But, also like most writers, there came a moment when I started to believe that I could write well. That maybe writing was a talent I had. Something special.

I think for many of us, this moment arrived when someone outside of our family told us we could write well. As important as familial validation is for a writer, they’re your family and therefore biased in your favor (hopefully). Even as a child I recognized this.

My “ah-ha!” moment came in eighth grade. I went to the local Catholic grade school, and one of my teachers was a nun, Sister Christopher. She herself was a creative and innovative teacher, skilled at bringing out the best in everyone in our class (a tall order, believe me!). So I suppose it was not unusual for her to recognize creativity in others.

We had to write a short story for class. Mine had the obnoxious title of “Drums Rolling In Triumph.” The story was about, of all things, a young woman who wanted to be a session drummer in the music industry—and succeeded. Why I wanted to write about this, I have no clue. But I did. And Sister Christopher told me it was very good and that I should continue writing.

I am sure that if I could re-read that work, I would find that it was pretty bad. Poorly written—enough to make me cringe. I know I did not wow her with my flawless prose or my poetic description. So what made her tell me to keep going?

My guess is passion. As badly written as I’m sure that story was, Sister Christopher sensed the passion I had for the craft. She may have also seen a natural storytelling ability—I’m sure the story arc was complete and solid, even if the writing was not.

I’m certain Sister Christopher would be surprised to hear that her simple words of encouragement meant so much to me. They gave me confidence in my writing, a sense that here was something I could do well. I think everyone needs something to call their own, something they feel they can do well. Something that they can make uniquely theirs, and that no one can take from them.

I have never forgotten how words so simple had such a profound impact on my life. Those words helped set me on the path that has led here. When speaking to a child (or even an adult), I try to remember that anything I say may change the way they see themselves or the world. That words, even casual words, have power.

Respect the power of your words. You may be changing the world without even knowing it.

How about you? Have you had a “moment” that set you on your career path? Or a seemingly trivial moment that changed your life?

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